Why I'm Leaving the Oatmeal Wilderness

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Ari Weinzweig has gotten me into a lot of bad habits. One of them is starting every morning with a bowl of oatmeal. Today's piece on his favorite Macroom's reminds that I've got to order some. Like right now. It's been years since I've had it, and I've been in the Irish wilderness of believing the handsome, sturdy British Isles industrial-revolution packaging of McCann's, the kind of box that has gold medals from London in 1851 and Chicago in 1893.

Even if McCann's is part of Odlums, which makes the only brown-bread mix I can find (and life would be impoverished without brown bread, incomparably light but nutty, every now and then), McCann's is close but not close enough to Ari's Macroom. I've just finished a bowl of steel-cut oats--the healthful, whole-grain kind, with a stamp logo of endorsement by the Whole Grains Council, a group founded by Oldways. I sure want to have whole grains, but not when after an hour of simmering they're still hard and too pellet-like, without any creaminess in the liquid.

Back to Arrowhead Mills rolled oats for now, which unlike most pasty, tasteless brands have a kind of precise oat flavor, and nice creaminess after only a few minutes. Yes, I use instant! There, I said it. And rolled oats, even if as Ari points out they look "something like the seedpods of autumn elm trees without the wings"--like they'd been steamrolled, which if you've seen an oat factory they literally are.

But Macroom's soon as Zingerman's gets them to me. And I'll heed Ari's suggestions both about thinking of savory oatmeal suppers, which sound odd and possibly yucky only because we're used to oatmeal as a breakfast; imagine if, like friends from Philadelphia or Southerners used to grits, we'd grown up thinking of polenta as exclusively breakfast food and couldn't imagine what chefs were doing putting it next to salmon and roast pork. And try to resist ordering the Muscovado brown sugar he rightly insists on. That I don't need oatmeal to polish off in about three days flat.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, and came to The Atlantic Monthly in 1981. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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